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Book Review: Selected Poems

Oct 8, 2019 at Literature Essays

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Denise Levertov is a renowned poet, who has brought American literature into the mainstream of people’s lives. She was born in London in 1923. As child, Levertov participated in several literature writings that saw her become a guru poetic writer at the first half of the 20th century. She has won many awards for her poetic work making her one of the most important American poets of the time. She died in 1997 at the age of 84 years. Her shrewdness in poetry writing will forever linger in many minds in centuries to come. This paper explores Levertov work from the book Selected Poems. The book is culled from a collection of many poetry books that she wrote throughout her life. In the review, the paper will pay attention to how Levertov has developed her work through the use of stylistic devices, themes, and features employed in the book.


A reader will realize that the book has been made interesting out of her ability to employ a combination of various instances that describe her life experiences. From just reading the book, one becomes conversant with how the author spent her life in almost six decades. When Levertov was a young girl, she spent most of her time with mother, who educated her from home. It is during this time that Levertov realized her potential in poetic writing. She interacted with other authors such as Williams Carlos Williams and Charles Olson who become her mentors (Levertov 209). Her writing moments are marked by a lot of consultations from these mentors to emerge as among the best poem writers in America. From the book, one can realize that Levertov was not born in America in that she moved there from London while in the pursuit to follow her dreams and to be engaged to an American husband who once spend his life in America.

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There is an adorable use of many themes in Levertov’s poetic work. According to the book Selected Poems, Levertov has employed several themes to communicate and present her thoughts to the reader. Most of the themes in the book explore and interpret the various encounters in her life. On the same, some themes were meant to bring to the attention of the reader about the various beliefs that people hold in many societies. Themes presented by Levertov are also highly educative, involving and thrilling.

The theme of religion has been effectively discussed in the book. Religion appears as one of her themes since she was an active member of the church. It was facilitated by the fact that her parents were firm spiritual believers. Her father was a popular priest in London while her mother spent most of her time in the church. Therefore, it was very hard for Levertov to grow in such a way that she was not raised in church. As a result, her poetry incorporates a lot of religious activities that one can attribute to her religious background. The best of Levertov poetry works are hymns, invocations, prayers, and incantations. The mentioned types of poems incorporate profound seriousness that aims at spreading religion to readers. In this case, these poems have shunned levity and attempt to exalt anything else than God. In fact, there are several mentions of the word God in the poems confirming that they are inclined towards recognizing God as a supernatural power.

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Moreover, mythical aspect has been used in these poems since most of them have to do a lot with beliefs and myths. Apart from several mentioning of God in the poems, confirming that Levertov completely believed in Him, several other poems narrow down to societal settings in order to show that people hold to a lot of myths. For Levertov, the main goal of poetry was to present the myth of the natural landscape and the strangeness of the familiar world. She showed instances to explain how people believed in the origin of language they use to communicate with each other.

Lack of literary devices in writing is one of the worst mistakes that an author can commit. Such features bring in taste to writing while still conforming to the standard rules required in writing. Literal devices are important in a number of factors. To start with, they help a reader in categorizing the content in the writing. Through the stylistic or literal devices applied in many writings, a reader can be in a position to categorize it as a poem, narrative, speech or any other form of writing. Levertov has clearly adhered to this requirement, thus, has employed significant stylistic devices in her writing in accordance to the rules of poet writing. Moreover, the author has been able to employ various literary devices that make her poems interesting to read.


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Imagery has also been effectively used in her poems. In fact, she has qualified in invoking a readers mind by applying imagery in her poem. Most of the poems have avoided giving direct meaning to the ideas she want to communicate. Rather than giving a direct answer or response, the poems have invested in providing group mysterious of images. If one will have to understand the content of the poem, he or she must then think deeply. Use of imagery in poetry is meant to invoke a readers thinking ability. They are also meant to give an in depth meaning to a theme given in the poem.

Most importantly, Levertov’s poetry is marked by adequate application of rhyming words at the end of most sentences. For instance, in the poem To the Reader, the words ending the sentences rhyme in most stanzas such as leaves and pages, etc. (Levertov 231). Rhyming words has greatly helped in creating rhythm to a written poem. In fact, use of such rhythms by Levertov defined her proficiency in poetry writing. Rhyming words in poetry are meant to create mood in a poem. Moreover, they enhance the emotion of the persona in the poem assisting the reader to understand the themes presented in the writing.

Augment is also a technique used in her poetry. Levertov’s poetry is full of her ability to augment events and activities. Her published poems are highly argumentative and compelling. In this case, she has qualified in challenging the idea and themes presented in most of her poems. Argumentation is a stylistic device that assists a reader in understanding the poem while he gets to the comparison and contrasts moods presented by the poet. It is not a common literal device applied by many writers. However, the shrewdness of Levertov in poetry writing has enabled her to apply this stylistic device with a lot of ease and flexibility.

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Repetition in Selected Poems has demonstrated Levertov competence in poetry. Levertov has been in a position to strike a significant balance between different stylistic devices. The various poems discussed in the book present instances where the poet has greatly utilized repetition. The application of this stylistic device is particularly applied in those poems that the poet wanted to emphasis on a particular idea or a theme. That way, Levertov enabled a reader to understand the poem. In addition to this, use of repetition created mood in the poem as well as enhanced the rhythm of the poem. Combination of such stylistic devices greatly contributed to various themes that then created a platform which Levertov passed knowledge to many of her audience.

Levertov’s poetry is increasingly thoughtful in that it incorporates various ideas that one could not have imagined. The poet has utilized the environment to cull many themes. From most of her poems, apart from too much concentration on religion, she has also written about the various activities that takes place in a society. It is particularly when she talks about the landscape and the features that surround people as they conduct their day to day activities. There is also the mention of animals such as a horse. The mentioning is firm evidence that Levertov analyzed societies in terms of what they did to make ends meet. In this case, one can confidently deduce that Levertov was highly thoughtful. She used the environment to source information that she would then use in a poem. The same information was used to educate and provide knowledge to people within the same surrounding.


In conclusion, the book Selected Poems is a good testimony of Levertov’s proficiency in poetry. It confirms that Levertov deserved all the awards she won from her writing. From the book, one has also gathered significance knowledge about the various literal/stylistic devices used in writing of formal poems. A good poem should provide consistency in the application of features such as repetition, rhymes, rhythms, stanzas, imagery and arguments. The aim of these literal devices is to set a mood for the poem and help a reader understand the idea presented in a poem. Well written poems should be in a position to come up with several themes that are educative to the reader. The themes should be coined from a society where the poet wants to educate. These themes should be greatly informing and that a reader can easily understand. In addition, from the book, one has come into terms with most of the writing that authors present to their readers is motivated by the experiences they have encountered in their life.

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